By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Students in universities, colleges, and other higher education institutions (HEIs) will be subjected to mandatory random drug testing starting academic year 2019-2020.
This was bared by Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero de Vera III as he stressed that HEIs are expected to implement mandatory random drug testing on students, with notice to parents.
De Vera, in CHED Memorandum No. 18 series of 2018, issued the implementing guidelines for the conduct of drug testing of students in all HEIs. Under the guidelines, he noted that “drug problem in the Philippines continues to remain a serious national concern that permeates both the public and private sectors not only as a security issue, but also as a health concern that affects social, emotional, psychological, as well as the economic well-being of the citizenry.”
De Vera noted that the government recognizes the complimentary roles of public and private HEIs and “shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation thereof.” Given this, CHED enjoined all HEIs to “include in their Student’s Handbook the conduct of mandatory random drug testing, with notice to parents.”
Aside from random drug testing, De Vera said that an HEI may, “within the parameters of its institutional academic freedom” also include in its Student’s Handbook a “policy for the conduct of mandatory drug testing as a requirement for admission and retention,” after observance of the “consultation and other similar requirements.” “In case the drug test yielded positive results, the HEI concerned is not barred from admitting the student/applicant, unless there is a valid reason not to admit such student/applicant on grounds other that the positive findings as a result of the drug test.” De Vera said that the fee for drug testing prior to admission “will be borne by the student-applicant.” He or she may also choose to be tested in any DOH-accredited drug facility or in the authorized facility of the HEI, if any.
De Vera said that CHED – as part of its mandate – “has the duty to continuously monitor the effectiveness of the dangerous drug abuse prevention program through their respective regional/field offices” and may “enlist the assistance of any government agency or instrumentality to carry out the objectives of the program.”
The HEIs, De Vera said, shall have the mechanisms to “promote healthy lifestyle such as but not limited to healthy diet, physical activities, and no smoking and alcoholic drinking environment inside and outside the school campus.”
CHED said it recognizes the academic freedom of all HEIs, particularly in implementing a policy on mandatory random drug testing of their students or as part of the school’s admission and retention requirements.
“In keeping with the dangerous drug abuse prevention program of the government, CHED said that Local Government Units (LGUs), the Philippines National Police (PNP), or any authorized law enforcement agency may carry out legitimate drug-related operation within the school premises, provided that the same shall be coordinated to the concerned HEIs prior to its conduct.”
De Vera said that the conduct of random drug testing of students in tertiary schools is mandatory pursuant to the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. He also noted that random drug testing under the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation shall “ensure that such is implemented for drug prevention and rehabilitation purposes and shall guarantee and respect the personal privacy and dignity of the students.”
The drug test results, De Vera said, shall be “treated with utmost confidentiality and cannot be used in any criminal proceedings.”
Ultimately, De Vera explained that the implementing guidelines aim to promote a “drug-free” campus” and further the “legitimate interest of the government in preventing and deterring dangerous drug use among the youth.” It also aims to “instill in the minds of the students that dangerous drugs not only interfere in their ability to learn but also disrupt the teaching environment.”
De Vera said that the guidelines were issued to “establish a stronger partnership between the government and the HEIs in providing programs and activities intended to facilitate the holistic and well-rounded student development” and to “ensure that that drug testing policies of HEIs are reasonable and not violate the fundamental rights of the students.”
CHED also hopes to strengthen the collaborative efforts of the concerned agencies such as the DDB, Department of Health (DOH), PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) against use of “illegal drugs and in the treatment of dangerous drug users and dependents.”
De Vera reminded that the conduct of mandatory drug testing of students in HEIs “must have prior approval of the school’s governing boards and passes through the necessary consultation process.” Likewise, he noted that only DOH-accredited drug facility, physician or private medical practitioners shall conduct the necessary drug testing. “If the HEI does not have an accredited clinic, the HEI should partner with a DOH-accredited drug facility, physician or private medical practitioners duly accredited to administer drug.